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Just a Thought - Conversations With Steve: No, No Nano


- September 13th, 2005

"So, I hear you are coming out with some new iPod products."

Steve Jobs shifts in the comfortably padded seat and studies the man sitting across from him. He wonders how much this guy knows, and how much he should tell him. Trust is not an issue; Steve has known the man for: How long has it been? He couldn't remember, but in all of that time the man has never betrayed Steve's trust. Of course, Steve seldom gave him the opportunity, but it was nice to know that there are still a few honest people in the world.

Even so, Steve took precautions, as he always did whenever they met. Armando, the maitre d' at the restaurant where they were presently, always insured Steve's privacy by seating him in one of the booths the restaurant had for more secluded dining, and he made sure that only trusted waiters attended Steve whenever he came to eat.

Steve appreciated the effort and usually tipped well and came back often.

He takes a sip of his wine, smiles, and answers, "Yeah, we've got some stuff in the pipeline."

"Don't be coy with me Steve. If you're talking about that iTunes phone, don't bother, it's been in the news weeks. It's interesting, but hardly earth moving. I'm talking about that other new thing you've got in the wings."

Steve glances around suspiciously. The man does the same, mocking Steve, grinning.

Steve looks at the man with deadpan seriousness.

The man's grin fades. "Geez! You can't take a joke?"

"Not with this," Steve answers as he slips his hand from his jean pocket. He then lays his hand, closed; palm up, on the table, and repeats, "Not with this."

He opens his hand and reveals a small iPod.

The man's eyes widen, "whoa," he breathes. He reaches for the iPod, but Steve closes his hand before the man can touch it.

"Oh, come on Steve. Let me at least play with it."

At that moment the waiter arrives with their food.

Both men remain quiet as the waiter arranges the food in a presentable manner and refills their wine glasses. Understanding that the men are waiting for him to leave, the waiter pauses for a few seconds to give the men time to ask for something. When no requests come the waiter tips his head forward slightly and leaves.

The moment the waiter is out of earshot the man sitting across from Steve says, "OK, pal, lemme see it," and extends his hand.

Steve, always one for a bit of dramatics, sniffs his blacken sea bass, inhaling the aroma and making a show of savoring it. "Ahhhhhh! Smells great! Let's eat!"

The man sitting across from him does not move, his hand remains extended, palm up, waiting.

Steve pretends not to notice and takes a bite of sea bass. He rolls his eyes in puckish delight. "Mmmmmm-Boy! This is some good slop!"

The man continues to wait, hand extended.

Steve looks up from his second mouthful. "What? You're not eating?"

The man says nothing; his hand remains open, extended.

Steve sighs heavily, "OK. You win." He hands the man the little iPod. "You know, you use to be a lot more fun."

The man grins as he examines the device. "Fun, schmun -- this thing is really small. It looks like an iPod someone left in the dryer too long."

Steve smiles and takes another bite.

After looking the device over several times, the man finally looks up at Steve and says, "Wow, you guys have been busy. Got some headphones?"

Steve produces a set that looks as if it has too many wires. "Check this bad boy out."

The man takes the headset with a puzzled look. "How..." he starts, then, upon spying the connector, he says, "Oooooohhhh! OK. I got it. This plugs into the bottom like on the Shuffle, and I loop this over my neck, put these in my ears, and.,.; oh yeah, this works!"

Steve continues to eat and smile; it's hard to tell which he is enjoying more, his meal, or the antics of his guest.

The man plays with the tiny iPod a while longer, looking up whenever he discovers something new. "Nice color screen!" "Pictures! Sweet!" "Hey, nice games!"

Through it all Steve smiles, nods, chews, and sips his wine.

At last the man removes the headphones, sips his wine and says, "OK, so, whatcha gonna call it? The iPod Micro?"

Steve swallows, wipes his mouth and says, "I'm thinking of calling it the iPod nano."

The man's eyebrows knit, " Nano? No way! You've got the iPod, then the iPod mini; the next name in line should be the iPod Micro."

Steve simply shakes his head. "No. No micro."

"What's wrong with micro? It's a good name, and it fits." The man changes his voice to imitate a radio salesman and holds up the little iPod. "The iPod Micro: micro size, mega sound.  Only from Apple!"

Steve grimaces. "Good thing you don't do commercials for a living."

"Yeah, well, you get the idea. Micro should be the name, not nano. Sounds like something Mork from Ork would say: 'Nano-nano!'" The man attempted to sound like the Robin Williams TV character, but does a poor job.

"It's a good thing you don't also do imitations for a living."

"OK, so I suck at imitations. So, what are you gonna do about this name?"

"Nothing. It is the iPod nano."

"Steve, if you name this device the Micro, then when you come out with an even smaller device, you can name THAT the Nano. If you use nano for this device, that means the next one will be pico, then femto, and I don't think you wanna go there."

Steve chews, swallows, wipes his mouth and says, "It's not about literal size; if that's the case then the iPod mini should have been the size of a postage stamp compared to the iPod, and you'd need a microscope to see an iPod nano. No, it's about marketing, and what sounds cool, and differentiating this product from others. Do you know how many products there are on the market that uses the term 'micro'? "

The man shakes his head.

"I don't either," Steve continues. "But I do know that there are a lot of them; Micro Machines, Micro Flash drives, Game Boy Micro. Then you've got the Zen Micro, and of course, Microsoft. I wanted to make this iPod name stand out, and as luck would have it, there are fewer devices and companies that use the term "nano."

The man sat for a moment digesting what Steve said, then he says, "Oh. OK. iPod nano works."

"I'm glad you agree," Steve says sarcastically.

The man smiles impishly. "You know, Creative has a device that uses the term 'nano', it's an MP3 player, in fact. A nice one too."

Now Steve's eyebrows knit.

The man continues. "What? You didn't know? It's called the ZEN Nano Plus. It's a teeny-weeny thing, much smaller than your nano, I believe."

Steve mumbles, "I think I need to pay the boys in Research a little visit," then takes a bite of sea bass and chews absently.

"I know how much trouble the name 'Tiger' gave you," The man continues. "They came out like ants at a picnic, claiming that your OS X Tiger was infringing on their Tiger. Who was that that tried to stop you from releasing Tiger?" The man asks, feigning a thoughtful pose. "Oh yeah, it was Tiger Direct, wasn't it?"

Steve takes a sizable swallow of wine, nearly emptying the glass.

"Tiger Direct didn't have much of a leg to stand on," the man adds, "but Creative just might. You sure you don't want to name it the iPod Micro?"

Steve sighs. " Micro, nano; what difference does it make! Someone might kick up a fuss if we named the thing the iPod Aardvark. If Creative's knickers are in a bunch because we named our player the iPod nano, so be it. I happen to think there's enough differentiation between..., what was it?"

"The ZEN Nano Plus."

"Yeah, that and the iPod nano. One's an iPod, the other's a ZEN. The iPod name is the differentiator, it's widely recognized and hard as hell to confuse with ZEN. I'll gladly go to court to defend the name I chose, and I firmly believe I'd win." Steve points his fork, tipped with sea bass, at the man. "So smoke that in your pipe, and shove it, Buddy Boy!"

The man laughs softly. "Hey, I got no problem with the name. Call it Al for all I care."

The two eat in silence for several minutes. Then, with a wry smile, the man asks, "Soooo, can I keep it?"

Steve chuckles and shakes his head. He thinks for a moment, then replies, "Sorry, no."

"Aw, come on Steve. I promise I'll keep it hidden."

"Tell ya what; you like Harry Potter, right?"


"After I announce it, I'll send you a special iPod nano. Trust me, you'll like the one I send you much better. Now, hand it over."

The man reluctantly complies, then picks up his fork and stabs an asparagus spear. "So, what's so special about the iPod nano you're gonna send me? And what does it have to do with Harry Potter?"

Steve smiles. "You'll just have to wait and see, won't you?"

The man smiles too.

The two are silent again, then Steve looks up at the man and asks, "Sooo, are you still driving that Mini?"

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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